U.S.S. Grand Canyon AD 28 (Destroyer Tender)
Built at Todd Shipyard in Tacoma WA, U.S.S. Grand Canyon was commissioned in 1946, completed too late to serve during the Second World War. Shakedown operations in southern California preceded a transit via the Panama Canal to Newport RI. In the late summer of 1946 the ship departed Newport for its first tour in the Mediterranean.
From then until 1954, Grand Canyon would make seven deployments to the Mediterranean, providing alongside repair and upkeep of the destroyers and destroyer escorts of the Sixth Fleet. Usually moored in Naples, Italy, Grand Canyon would deploy with the fleet at times of increased tensions. In 1956, the Suez Crisis necessitated the ship’s eighth deployment to the eastern Mediterranean, providing advanced repair capabilities to the ships deployed to guard American and NATO interests.
After the ship’s second Mediterranean tour, in 1948, Grand Canyon carried Michelangelo’s statue of David, on loan to the United States, to Newport. The following June it had the honor or returning the statue to the country of its origin.
Tenders provide repair facilities, such as machine shops, that are beyond the normal repair abilities of a ship’s crew underway. They also provide post office, communications, medical and dental, and other support capabilities that allow ships deployed for long periods to maintain both equipment and morale.
Grand Canyon provided such services both in port and underway, as well as at various anchorages in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic regions and in the Caribbean. In 1962 the ship took part in the Cuban Quarantine ordered by President John F. Kennedy in response to the Soviet build-up of missiles in Cuba.
The ship continued in its by now established pattern throughout the sixties and seventies, providing services to the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, supporting annual NATO exercises in the Atlantic, and operating in US ports to provide repair services in home waters.
Grand Canyon remained in service with the Atlantic fleet through the early and mid-1970s, being re-designated as AR 28 (Repair Ship) in early 1971. Serving in that capacity until 1978, Grand Canyon was decommissioned and struck from the naval register in September of that year. In June of 1980, the vessel was sold for scrap.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Grand Canyon
Nearly every compartment aboard U.S.S. Grand Canyon contained asbestos materials in some form. At the time of the ship’s construction asbestos was used by shipyards, contractors, subcontractors, and vendors in a wide variety of materials. Some were even called for in the specifications of the contract.
Asbestos lagging covered pipes that ran throughout the ship, providing thermal insulation. Any operation requiring access to the pipe, couplings, or valves would require the insulation to be removed, often tearing it in the process and releasing asbestos fibers into the air, where it could easily be dispersed throughout the ship.
Asbestos was also contained in parts that required routine replacement, such as liners for brakes on capstans and winches, clutches, and couplings. Other uses included deck tiles, overhead tiles, gaskets and seals, valve packing and electrical panels. Because of its resistance to fire asbestos was used to fireproof decks and bulkheads.
U.S.S. Grand Canyon’s entire career was completed prior to the onset of serious asbestos abatement efforts on US Navy ships.